The antitrust division of the Justice Department has put together the basics needed to form an investigation, say sources familiar with the agency’s plans. The move would put the search giant’s business practices under the microscope and could spell trouble for its multitude of business units. In addition to its main search business, Google offers a wide range of products and services, including Gmail, Google Maps, Google Assistant, and Android.
Google no stranger to investigations
In 2013, the Federal Trade Commission concluded a similar probe into Google’s behavior. At the time, the FTC deemed it the company hadn’t broken any laws. Even so, Google voluntarily made some changes to the way it ran select business units to appease investigators. The Justice Department and FTC only recently agreed which of the two agencies, which share antitrust duties, would pursue the new investigation into Google.
Google is a frequent target of the European Commission. In March, the E.U. fined Google $1.7 billion over “abusive” online ad strategies. In July 2018, the E.U. socked Google with a $5.1 billion fine over Android antitrust concerns.
The timing of the new investigation comes after some in the U.S. government have called for large tech firms to be broken up.
In March, Sen. Elizabeth Warren suggested companies such as Google and Facebook be pulled apart. Specifically, she believes mergers and acquisitions have given these companies too much power.
“Current antitrust laws empower federal regulators to break up mergers that reduce competition,” she wrote in a post on Medium.
Neither the Justice Department nor Google immediately responded to requests for comment, and the exact nature of the probe is unknown. For example, it’s unclear if the Justice Department has yet contacted Google about the potential investigation.
Android Authority will provide more details about the investigation once they are made available to the public.